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date: 22 November 2019


  • Alan R. Thrasher


Hourglass-shaped drum of the Han Chinese, historically known as zhanggu (‘stick drum’). Several related drum types were introduced from India or Central Asia into the Chinese courts of the Sui and Tang dynasties (6th to early 10th centuries ce), though according to Chen Yang’s Yueshu (‘Treatise on music’) of 1104, the zhanggu was obtained from Central Asia when Fu Jian (338–85) invaded the state of Kucha. Chen points out that in later times the zhanggu was distinguishable by its playing technique: a stick was used to strike the right head, the open hand playing the left. Their common feature is the South Asian tradition of lacing the two drumheads together, rather than tacking them onto the body. Body contour and striking method, however, differ from one historic type to another.

The xiyaogu (‘narrow waist drum’)—not to be confused with the barrel-shaped yaogu (‘waist drum’) which is merely held at the waist—is a large hourglass-shaped drum (between 60 and 80 cm long), with overwide heads attached to metal hoops (about 40 cm in diameter) extending beyond the body rims and secured by connective lacing. Historically, the body was constructed from either wood or ceramic. It was played by dancer-musicians, and was suspended from the neck with a strap and struck with a stick in one hand and open palm of the other. The ...

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